Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let's Talk About Sex

I shared this article about sex on my Stepping into Motherhood facebook page the other day. Between that and I'm a part of these moms groups on facebook as well, I've found women are oddly curious about how much sex other women are having. I feel like I get to be a fly on the wall as I watch all these women respond these sex inquiry threads in these groups. The responses of "normal" range anywhere from a barely ever within a year to a few times a week. Actually I'm pretty sure a few even maybe said a few times a day to almost daily. With small kids at home! Sorry, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor on that. Really? Do you think she was for real???

If you don't know, I'm a very goal oriented person. I like to set goals and see what I can achieve.
 I don't share them too often because honestly I don't usually achieve them in the amount of time or the way I want or sometimes at all. Recently as my life has seemed to be turning a corner, and we're on the horizon of entering a new phase of our life as parents as we're leaving babies behind and transitioning to older kids, my goals have started to shift to my marriage. It's seriously taken a backseat the past almost decade. I even looked at my husband last night at dinner as I rolled my eyes that the toddler was overtired and screaming and the girls were whining that they had to go to the bathroom AGAIN and told him we're so close to this needy, dependent phase of parenthood being behind us, and I felt guilty even admitting out loud to him that I was quite excited about that possibility. I don't want to rush my kids growing up, but it's been him and I elbows deep on our own with no family or back up doing this parenting thing for almost a decade now. When people invite us out to do things that don't include kids we have to decline because there's no one else to watch the kids except us or someone we'd have to pay. We've had so few dinners alone or kid free with friends I could probably count them on my one hand. It's rarely just him and I in bed alone because they seem to always be in there with us. But as we get ready to embark on our third trip in thirteen months without kids, it's like I can feel the freedom that comes with exiting this phase of parenthood. We've finally started to feel they're old enough to leave for long weekends and even a week with family while we leave town, with the two oldest in school now and the oldest being just a few years away from being old enough to leave in charge we can have a dinner alone again so soon, and they're starting to sleep more in their own beds and less in ours.

We've been buried in this demanding phase of parenthood for so long, I think our biggest goal was survival most days. It still is some days, but my latest goals, mommas, have started to shift to my marriage and sex. Tell me I'm not the only one that's considered setting sex goals. I've been exhausted and overwhelmed for the past decade. I have handed my life over to these little people that I love with all my being but at times they have drained me where I have nothing left to give at the end of the day. I'm four years away from 40, and I read once where women hit their sexual peak in their 40s. I think I now know why! Without children clinging and needing something from me 24/7 and with my body being mine again, I may actually have more energy and desire for things not related to mothering.

So my goals as I head into 36 here soon are about sex. I want to have more sex as I head into mid life here. I want to turn our monthly average into a weekly average, and I want to be motivated to do that and not be too tired!  I hope these little trips without our kids are just the beginning because they have been wonderful this past year for allowing us to reconnect. As much as we both love those three little monsters of ours and the journey to five is something neither of us would ever change, I  don't want to forget the two people that began the journey. Because I think too often as we go from couples to families and we change from who we were to Mom and Dad it's very easy to lose the couple that began the journey.

                                  Photo courtesy of Sandia Pantano Imaging and Photography


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

What I Learned About Suicide in the Darkest Moments of Depression

I'm a get tougher, kid, kind of person. Ask my husband or my sister or my kids. It's either "it's not that bad" or "you'll be fine" are my usual replies. So when it comes to mental health here I'm going to admit some not very nice things but bear with me as I believe full disclosure with mental health is a must if we're going to change the way we look at and treat mental health.

Growing up I watched several family members struggle with depression. As I got older I came to understand some of the treatment some of them got but it wasn't really because they told me. Nobody talked about their struggles with depression like the way my dad's side of the family would talk about and discuss their struggles with diabetes. Depression was and is still very much treated like a dirty family secret that one shouldn't address.

As I moved into adulthood I remember being judgmental and critical of others I'd encounter in my life that had more obvious struggles with depression. I thought harsh things like it's all in their head; they needed to just change their perspective. Happiness is a choice; if they're not happy it's their own fault. "People just needed to get tougher" was my thinking.

When I first started to notice my angry outburst and drastic mood swings I of course refused to acknowledge it was anything connected with mental health. The first episode as I refer to them happened the year after I got out of college.  I just needed to get over it I told myself. I needed to reinforce positive thinking in myself and find my happy was my thinking. It wasn't until my third episode, that I sought medical help. Even though a year to years could pass in between, each episode was worse than the one before. Though I was steadfast in denying I was dealing with depression because my stubborn mind said depression was a choice you make, it was actually my sister, a certified social worker, who knows that DSM diagnosis book well, who was the first to tell me my struggles looked to actually mirror anxiety more so than depression most of the time.

This offered a little less of a negative stigma in my mind but I was still stubborn in refusing medication though it has been prescribed to me; however, my doctor did support that if I found other natural non medicated ways to manage my anxiety and depression she was whole heartedly supportive of those practices.

However, over the last few years, I've learned as much as you can be aware of your thinking and yourself it's really, really hard to change yourself. I hate when people will tell me not to get so worked up or anxious about certain things that tend to trigger my high anxiety moments. And the awful thing is even as someone who hates it when people do this to me I turn around and will catch myself doing the same thing to family that struggles with the same thing, just different triggers. Unfortunately, they can't just flip a switch and start thinking and behaving differently. It is not that easy, as much as I once wanted to think it was.

When you're dealing with anxiety or depression you are a prisoner of your own thoughts. Almost a year ago this next month- I will forever remember the date- I hit a wall I never saw coming. Though I had hit lows three other times where it's like depression collides with my anxiety, the collision track I was on seemed to come out of nowhere fast. I was suddenly in overdrive, and it was like depression took my brakes out of the car and I couldn't get a handle on where I was headed. In the past I had lashed out with extreme anger and criticism. I'll be honest that I still handle my anxiety with anger too much, but I am sooo much better about catching and trying to refocus myself. But last October the anger wasn't there; it was something totally different and much darker.

Last October when I reached the lowest low of my struggles with depression and anxiety to date I saw something so horribly clear in that moment. I don't like to go back there to that day but I'm going to go there for a moment because we all need to see something I saw so startling clear for the first time that day....

It was about 11:30 in the morning, and I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at work. I had told work I had a medical emergency and they needed to get someone for my last class of the day. I sat there, crying like I hadn't cried in I don't know how long, though I felt all I'd done in the past month was cry. About everything. Your thoughts-- I can't even begin to explain the consumption of your own thoughts and emotions in a moment like that- are just taking over any kind of rationality that you have left.  You are trapped inside your own head. You are trapped inside a dark cloud of negativity that only wants to remind you of all your flaws, all your shortcomings, of all the ways you've screwed up, of all the ways you're not good enough. I don't need you to tell me all that is untrue or BS right now. I know that now.

But when depression has you by the throat, squeezing out the last breathable air you desperately try to inhale it doesn't matter. You can't see or hear anything else. You can't rationalize very well. Think about finding yourself trapped in your car in flooding waters- how fast can you rationalize what's the right thing to do. Think about the panic you'd feel.  This is what the peak of depression feels like- uncontrollable panic as things feel like they're spinning out of control. Though I can honestly say I was not having suicidal thoughts when the doctor asked me back on that October day or now looking back but in that moment I do remember thinking "Oh my God, I get it now. I understand what leads people to suicide."

So here's what I want you to know about depression and suicide. They're trapped. Not in a car being consumed by water but by negative thoughts consuming their mind. They're panicked; they are scared. They feel like they're running out of time and ways out. Just like the drowning cry for help is silent more times than not so is their cry for help.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Don't Need a Mom Blog to Tell Me How to Do Motherhood

I purposefully avoid telling people at times that I have what most call a "mom blog". I love to tell people that I write and even that I have managed to get a few things published; however, mentioning my content niche is kind of a hit or miss thing. I avoid mentioning the term "mom blog" because here are things people assume about mom blogs:

-"oh she must be some mom expert" - insert the eye roll here
-"she's going to tell me how to parent my kid"
-"oh, god, she's judging me!" as they run away in fear
-"she must this pinterest crafting, cooking, home organization supermom; I should avoid her at all costs to my own sense of self worth" as they regard the mom blogger in a projected illusion of perfectionism that we cannot meet anymore than any other mom.

I love to read mom blogs as much as I love to write here on my own, and I've connected and networked with a handful of other mom bloggers. They are wonderful, caring women. We are not writing to pass on our so called "expert" mothering advice. As you've probably discovered from reading mine I don't have much to offer there.  Believe me when I tell you we are not here to tell you how to do motherhood. We don't really know anymore than you do. Honestly, any "expert" insight I may have comes from a teacher's perspective, not from being a mom or blogger. I didn't start a mom blog or join mom blog communities to because I'm a mom expert or expert at anything. If you've been around here or me long enough you know I can't cook (but I am improving!), pinterest and I are not friends, I do like to be organized but really my life is organized chaos at best, and though I talk about supermom frequently I am not her and besides my childlike vision of my young mother I have not met her. Most of our mom blogs aren't for us to judge anyone else's parenting but our own, which most of us probably do a little harshly. We write for the mom blog community because this journey is the most important journey to us.

We do it because we want to connect in companionship with other mommas in the trenches with us. We want support and more importantly we want to give you, the readers and other mommas, that find us, support. Motherhood is a dark corner of solitude at times. Sometimes literally while we're sitting there in desperation in the dark corner of the nursery trying to get a screaming baby back to sleep. We just want you to know in those dark moments we get it, we understand, you're doing the best you can, and it is enough.

We're all in this parenting thing together. We're each just trying to do right by our kids. Sure some of us- mom bloggers or not- are a little misguided sometimes and make mistakes- but in the end I think we all have a similar goal of raising happy, well adjusted, productive kids that can hopefully leave this world better than what it was when they entered it.

I am not here to judge your mothering; I am not here to tell you the best way to raise your kids. We are each the expert of that ourselves. But I am here to offer you support, understanding, a listening ear when you just need to vent or connect with someone that just gets this motherhood thing. As always I'm wishing all of us the very best in this journey of motherhood.

If you want to keep up with my mom fails, my short moments of momma success, and share in my laughter and tears I am now active daily on my Stepping into Motherhood facebook page sharing short little bits of humor and joy on this momma gig of ours.

                                  Last years's Fall photo but planning to get new ones today!

Monday, September 4, 2017

On the Eve of Kindergarten: The Kenzer Edition

My Dear Kindergartner,

It seems like just yesterday you were a baby and dependent on us for everything. Now with the first five years behind us and the start of kindergarten we have completed this first chapter of your life. But this chapter was more like the prologue where your dad and I write the beginning of your story with the foundation we give you. You won't remember much from these first five years except the stories we remind you of as you get older and the pictures we share of these first years of your life.

But now you start to take over. We'll write these next few chapters together but as the years pass you'll take over more and more of the story.  Here now is where you will start to make the memories that will stay with you the rest of your life. I am so excited for this new beginning for you, but a little scared too.

You will learn so many wonderful things, but here is where you will also start to lose your innocent naïve view of the world. You will learn to succeed and fail, how to fall down and get back up. You will make many friends, but a few select friendships will carry beyond these school years.
Hopefully you'll discover a passion for learning that will follow you throughout adulthood as one of the most important life lessons to know is you always have room to learn and grow. You'll start to find who you are and what you want to be. You may get a little lost at times, but I hope you'll always remember we're here to help you find your way when you need it. You will make mistakes, but it will be okay.

You're going to be great. Now and later. As your parents with joy in our hearts and a little sadness because you're growing up so fast we wish you the very best as you embark on the school years of your childhood.

We love you to the moon and back! Always dream big.

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Loathe Homework

I've been working in public education for going on fourteen years this year. I've been a parent of a student going on four years this year. And this may be a horrible confession to make as an educator. but I loathe homework. Over the past few years I've really started to philosophically question the idea of homework, and though I hate it as a parent I'm not completely convinced as a teacher of the idea of completely eliminating it.

As a student myself the thought of homework did not leave any lasting negative impression on me. It didn't leave a positive one either though. I know I had it; I know I did it. In fact a couple of my football buddies copied my homework quite often, and though I took upper level courses I don't remember it dominating my life after school. My after school time was spent at practices and working when I was older and playing in the street with the neighbors when I was younger. Oh and tackling my mother's chore list left on the fridge.

But my elementary student has had homework about every night since kindergarten. Lucky for me I usually just have to say do your homework, and as she entered second grade I just started trusting that she was doing what she needed to do. Her teacher never said anything to me otherwise so I'm still assuming she did it most nights.

However, the reading log she's had since kindergarten is my most dreaded homework with her. She doesn't like to read; yet she's slightly above grade level skill wise so we argue every other day it feels like because she wants to read baby books just to get it done rather than investing in a longer grade level appropriate book that she could read over the course of several nights.  I remember asking her teacher at one point what was the purpose of the reading homework. I didn't really get a clear answer. To me whether she's reading to learn words and the skill of reading verse reading to work on comprehension and critical thinking over the ideas of the book made a difference in what was acceptable for her to read which is why I felt the purpose of this assigned homework was important for her and me to know. I want her to read but I feel like forcing her to read every single night for however long the requirement is just going to make it harder for her to foster a love for reading eventually. This is where I feel there has to be clear purpose in homework because I even know from my early days of teaching we sometimes assign homework because the higher ups say we need to give kids a certain amount of homework a night, but a few years ago as a teacher I started to rebel against this thinking. I started to hear from students and friends with older kids of kids spending hours- like another 4-6 hours - after seven hours in school doing homework!

I find that reality frustrating as a student, teacher, and parent. Education is important but there are so many other things our children need "educational" experience with than some academic skill set. They need social skills- outside in the neighborhood, on the community basketball court, even in the local Mc Donald's parking lot. If they're sitting inside doing homework not only are they probably in front of a screen the only social building skills they're getting is through social media probably while they're doing their homework . They need to know about team work and collaboration whether that's putting in time after school with a sport or helping out at home. They need to learn personal responsibility outside of completing school work and again that can be taught through chores at home or a job after school. They need time to explore their interest and learn what it takes to pursue them. Again this may be in the form of sports, drama, some kind of art, or a variety of other things. They need to learn how to build and maintain relationships. Again if they're in front of a screen because most education is through a screen anymore rather they're not getting the personal building skills that comes from interacting with friends, family, and teammates. They need time to develop these skills.

I just flat out do not support the idea of bombarding kids with four + hours of homework a night. The health risk for this alone with anxiety, depression, obesity, I think would be enough to deter from thinking this is an acceptable practice. As a teacher of older students I know they have activities and jobs and some of them are going from 730 am until 9 or 10 at night before they even have a chance to look at homework. That's setting kids up for failure and/or sleep deprivation.

It quit being my practice awhile ago  to give kids homework that's due the next day.  They get reading and long range projects that are done in and out of class where they can assess where to best fit it into their schedule after school. The only other homework they get is when I let them take things home to finish. Then if they complain about being up until 2 in the morning for my class I let them know they need to work on their time management skills then because I have them plenty of time to figure out where to best fit in completing the assignment. If there is not great purpose in an assignment though it's not going home.

A little homework is good for teaching responsibility but the thinking that students have to have homework every night so making up something to just say they had homework has to go. So I'm not going to quit assigning homework altogether, but I am really not looking forward to after school homework with my own kids when they return to school on Tuesday.

Find other great homework memes on here